Identifying and Treating Egg Bound Chicken (Tips)
Egg binding can be fatal for your laying hens.
This condition isn’t very common in well-cared-for hens, so you shouldn’t be concerned if your chickens have never had it.
Even if you have a healthy, happy flock, it’s important to understand the symptoms, causes, and treatments for egg binding so you don’t lose any of your birds.
Egg binding might look like nothing to worry about, but if it happens in your flock, you should treat it as an emergency.
What are egg bound chickens?
When a hen has an egg that is trapped somewhere inside the oviduct, this is called egg binding. This is most commonly found between the cloaca and the uterus, but it can also be seen trapped near the vent or cloaca.
Egg binding is a problem because it prevents additional eggs from being released. It also has an impact on a chicken’s digestive system. When a hen is ready to lay an egg, her cloaca closes the opening to her intestines to keep poop from getting on the egg.
She won’t be able to poop if this opening remains closed, which it will if she can’t pass the egg. While constipation may not be a major issue in humans, it is fatal in chickens. In fact, within 48 hours, it can lead to death.
In addition, egg binding can lead to a variety of other conditions. It can cause egg yolk peritonitis, which is an infection in the hen’s coelomic cavity, as well as a condition called vent prolapse.
This latter condition occurs when the vent begins to protrude from the chicken’s back. It can make the rest of the flock act like cannibals and make them more likely to get sick.
Finally, egg binding has been linked to abdominal masses and infections. The treatment of these can be difficult.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Egg Bound Chicken?
Egg binding in chickens is a difficult condition to detect because you may not realize your egg bound chickens until it is too late. And, of course, your hens can’t just come out and say they’re not feeling well back there!
The most difficult aspect of identifying an egg bound hen is that the symptoms that you do notice will frequently resemble symptoms of other diseases.
Sometimes, an egg bound chicken will even ultimately pass the egg, and you’ll have no idea that she was suffering in the first place.
However, there are some general signs and symptoms to look for, many of which indicate a severely bound egg. Your hen may not eat or drink as much as she used to, or she may appear sluggish.
She may also wheeze or pant as if she has a respiratory problem. Because the egg is pressing on nerves in the pelvis, her legs may appear lame.
People often say that their chickens who aren’t laying eggs look sad or sick because their wings are shaking and their bellies are straining. Your hen’s tail may even move vigorously up and down as she tries to get rid of the egg.
Hens who are egg bound often walk strangely, stopping frequently to squat and attempt to lay.
Look closely at the feces of your chicken, too. If she is egg bound, she may experience diarrhea.
The following are egg bound chicken signs and symptoms:
The Penguin Walk
This is the classic egg bound walk, also known as the Penguin Walk. The chicken walks like a penguin and appears uneasy and distressed.
The second cardinal sign for egg binding is this. She’ll stand with her legs apart, squat low to the ground, and begin pumping her tail up and down in an attempt to lay the egg. This maneuver is sometimes successful, and she will pass the egg.
Although this symptom is vague, it must be monitored. The chicken might just be having a bad day and be back to normal the next day.
Pay close attention if your hen’s feed or water intake has been reduced for more than 24-36 hours. Dehydration can exacerbate egg binding.
Lethargy and Prolonged Sitting
Between short walks, your chicken may sit for extended periods of time. She will appear sluggish, her eyes may be closed, and she will appear generally unhappy and depressed.
Some chickens can shake and feel tired after only a few hours of trying to get the egg out.
There is no poop (or very wet poop) because the egg effectively seals off the intestinal tract from the vent.
Because any solid matter cannot pass, she may pass a small amount of foul-smelling liquid.
Egg Bound Chickens: Causes and Solutions
When you’re trying to figure out how your chicken becomes egg bound in the first place, it can be quite overwhelming. This is because there are dozens of possible causes for an egg-bound chicken, each of which can be difficult to identify.
Egg binding is sometimes a one-time occurrence, with little you can do to prevent or stop it. If your hen tries to lay an unusually large or unusually shaped egg, she may become egg-bound.
This is due to the oviduct’s limited ability to stretch, and eggs that do not fit the standard template can easily become lodged and stuck.
The same is true for eggs with double yolks – as much as you may enjoy seeing them in your egg basket, they tend to be supersized and difficult for hens to pass.
Reproductive issues can also cause egg binding. Some of these things only happen once, while others may be more likely to happen to certain hens.
If you notice that one hen consistently lays odd-shaped eggs, she may have genetic issues that make her more prone to egg binding.
Malnutrition and the age of your chickens are two easy-to-prevent causes of egg binding.
Simply put, older chickens are more likely to become egg bound because they don’t lay as many eggs – the muscles are weakened and slack as they are less active, and they aren’t as good at passing eggs.
A hen whose diet is deficient in critical minerals, vitamins, and protein (including but not limited to calcium) is more likely to become egg bound chicken. Inactive or obese hens may also be at risk.
Egg binding can be brought on by infections and illnesses. Internal parasites, as well as infections of the reproductive tract, can cause egg binding. These are often preventable through good animal husbandry practices, so they aren’t as common in most backyard flocks.
Finally, a hen may be more likely to become egg bound chicken if she does not have easy access to a nest box. This is due to the fact that she will be tempted to hold her egg until she finds a suitable location.
A stressed hen, for example, one who is hesitant to lay an egg because predators have been lurking around the coop, can also cause egg binding.
Treatments for Egg Bound Chicken
Here are some possible egg-bound chicken treatments:
Determine the Issue
If you have an egg-bound hen, your first step in treating her will be to determine whether she is truly egg bound or if she is suffering from another health issue.
Do not administer any treatment until you are certain that this is the source of her distress.
You can take your hen to a veterinarian for diagnostic tests, but you can also perform a quick test at home. When done correctly, it is a relatively safe and effective method of detecting an egg bound chicken.
Put on a glove and lubricate it with some lubricating jelly. This will protect your hen’s delicate vent from tearing or damage. Gently press your finger into the vent about two inches.
You will be able to feel an egg that has become stuck. If you don’t feel anything, egg binding isn’t the problem.
Give Her a Bubble Bath
However, no actual bubbles are required!
An easy way to expel a stuck egg is to place your hen in a warm bath. You should also add about a cup of Epsom salts to help loosen the egg. Your water should be deep enough for your hen to sit in it with three or four inches of her body submerged.
Place your hen in the water. She might struggle, especially if you have a breed that dislikes being handled. She will most likely calm down after a few minutes, as the water will feel soothing on her sore vent.
That’s good news because your hen will need to be submerged for about twenty minutes. Dry her off after the bath. Apply more Vaseline or another lubricating gel to the vent.
Massage lightly from front to back for a few minutes to help the oviducts contract on their own.
You must be very gentle while doing this, as the egg inside her can break if you are too rough. While this appears to be desirable—it’s not as big anymore, right?—it isn’t. It could lead to infection and worsen the egg bound chicken problem.
After you’ve spent a few minutes massaging her, you should place her in a crate (ideally one in an isolated, dark location to keep her calm) with plenty of food and water.
If she doesn’t pass the egg, you can repeat the bath and massage treatment a few more times.
If a few hours have passed with no results, you’ll need to try one of the other possible treatments.
Stimulate Her Appetite
If your hen hasn’t been eating because of her bound egg, you should give her a sugar-water solution. This will help lubricate the egg internally and replace any nutrients she has lost.
Calcium should be Given
In addition to the bath treatment described above, many people supplement calcium. Calcium will help your hen’s oviduct contract and expel the egg more easily.
If you do this, give your hen some calcium right before you put her in the bath – just make sure it’s broken up into small pieces so she doesn’t get too upset.
Treat Her with a Warm Towel
If you can’t convince your hen to take a bath, another option is to place her on a warm, wet towel. Place her in a confined space to do this.
You may need to hold the towel to her to get her to sit. The warm moisture should aid in the loosening of the egg.
How To Remove A Stuck Egg
You can try to remove a trapped egg on your own, but you must be extremely cautious. It can be dangerous to the hen if you are not completely confident in what you are doing. Instead, whenever possible, seek treatment from a veterinarian.
To remove the egg, make a hole in it so that you can extract the contents with a syringe. Pull the shell out once the contents have been extracted. Again, be gentle so as not to break the egg inside.
If it does break, make certain that you have extracted all of the pieces.
You risk infection if you do not remove the pieces. The small shards can cut the inside of the oviduct, which is both painful and dangerous for your hen. To treat an egg that has broken and prevent infection, you will need an antibiotic.
If you don’t want to remove the shell, leave the hen alone. Some veterinarians even recommend it. Because the egg is no longer a solid mass, it is often easier on the hen.
However, it may take a few days for her to pass the shell remnants, which can be a stressful game of watching and waiting for you.
This method works well if the egg can be seen. If you can’t, you’ll have to use a massage to help it get closer to the vent.
Again, be cautious, as this can result in breakage. If you’re able to get the egg out in this area, return her to the crate and watch her closely so that you can make sure she is eating, behaving, and drinking as normal.
You should also check her for vent prolapse or swelling. Even if she appears to be acting normally, if there is any redness or swelling, you should delay returning her to the flock because they will peck at the sore spot.
If you are unable to extract the egg, or if it breaks inside and requires antibiotics, you must take your chicken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Prevention of Egg Bound Chicken
Fortunately, preventing egg binding is much easier than treating it. There are several steps you can take to avoid ever having to deal with an egg-bound hen suffering on your farm.
Create a plethora of good nest boxes.
While there are many ways to save money while raising chickens, skimping on nest boxes should not be one of them. To lay their eggs, chickens require plenty of space.
The general rule is that one nest box is required for every four chickens.
The only exception is if you have a broody hen or one who likes to control all of the nest boxes. In that case, you should make a few extras.
It can help to keep your nest boxes stocked with fresh, clean bedding at all times, and to cover the entrance with a curtain to create a calm, dark, and relaxing environment.
Keep an eye on the Age
Many people try to pressure their hens in an attempt to get them to lay earlier or later in their lives. This is frequently accomplished by employing additional lighting.
While adding extra lights is usually safe, you should exercise caution when doing so with very young pullets or very old hens.
Ensure Optimal Nutrition
As more people turn to making their own chicken feed to save money and improve the health of their flock – a noble goal – egg binding is becoming more common.
This is because commercial poultry feed is made to have all of the nutrients (macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals) that chickens need to stay healthy and lay eggs.
If you make your own feed, make certain that you include everything your birds require. Even if you feed a layer-specific pellet, make sure your coop has an extra calcium supplement feeder.
Your chickens won’t eat too much of this because they know when they need calcium and will help themselves when it’s time.
Just be careful when adding calcium to the feed, because they won’t be able to control how much calcium they eat.
Even though laying chickens don’t often eat too much calcium, it can cause a lot of health problems or even death in birds that don’t lay eggs, like roosters.
It is critical to provide your hen with a well-balanced diet. Remember, chickens are not vegetarians, and deficiencies in the essential amino acids methionine and lysine (protein building blocks) can cause a variety of nutritional issues.
Obesity is a common cause of egg binding. If your chickens don’t get enough exercise, they’ll be more prone to a variety of health problems, including egg binding.
Allow your hens plenty of space to roam and avoid giving them too many unhealthy treats.
Internal parasites and other diseases and infections can cause a lot of problems, like eggs that stick together.
Good hygiene in your chicken coop and run, like cleaning it once a week and giving your chickens clean water, will help keep them from getting internal worms.
You may need to treat worms with natural methods such as garlic and apple cider vinegar, or medications such as Ivermectin. Use synthetic medicines sparingly, but if your flock gets worms, don’t be afraid to treat them.
Strengthen the Chicken Coop
If your chickens always have trouble laying eggs and you’ve ruled out everything else, it’s possible that they’re being bothered by a predator. A stressed chicken will not lay an egg in mid-flight while attempting to flee a fox!
So, you need to make sure that predators can’t get into your chicken coop or run. You may need to cover your run to protect it from airborne predators, or you may need to seal up holes in your coop that could be used by weasels or other small invaders.
Too Many Treats Should Be Avoided
Avoid giving your chickens too many treats, especially in hot weather. When the temperature rises, your hens naturally eat less feed, which can lead to the electrolyte, vitamin, and mineral imbalances.
When Something Else Is at Play Instead of Egg Binding
If you aren’t sure how to tell if a chicken has laid an egg, it might be best to ask a professional.
This is because, as was already said, hens often show signs of illness that look like those of other diseases.
If your hen has urate-stained feathers or is attempting to peck her vent area, she may or may not be egg bound chicken.
These are both signs of other problems that can happen in the cloaca and other areas where eggs are made. In the same way, a hot, swollen stomach might not be a sign of egg binding but of egg peritonitis.
Other misdiagnosed symptoms include hunched posture and waddling.
If you are unsure whether your hen is egg bound, seek medical attention immediately, especially if you cannot see the trapped egg.
Why Should You Prevent Chicken Egg Bound?
You may have heard or read a lot about egg binding, but it’s much rarer than you might think. But it’s important to know the signs and problems that come with this problem because it can be very hard to deal with in a flock of any size.
Binding eggs are rare, though, if you feed and take care of your chickens properly. Keep an eye on your flock and monitor them closely each day.
This way, you can stay on top of any problems before they become problems, and you’ll also ensure a healthy, happy flock.